There are two sides to every story. With Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, we're finally getting a peek behind the scenes of the villainous Umbrella Corporation: the twisted pharmaceutical corporation that has caused more outbreaks than cured. Along with introducing a new cast of six Umbrella spec-ops commandos--who are all crazy in their own unique way--developer Capcom has recruited Slant Six (SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 3) to infuse some extra vigor into the game's combat.
At the recent Capcom Gamers Day 2011 event in San Francisco, we got the chance to learn a little more about the game, as well as don the devil horns ourselves for a hands-on session. We also checked in with producer Mike Jones about character customization and a few other odds and ends, which you can find in the interview below.
A brief presentation preceded our time with the game and included a brand-new trailer featuring everyone's favorite undead stalker: Nemesis. The trailer also established Operation Raccoon City's setting as September of 1998, between the events of Resident Evil 2 and those of Resident Evil 3. We then watched a demonstration of the game's prologue mission. It followed our spec-ops team as they rendezvoused with Hunk, another Umbrella operative, and plotted how to recover the G-Virus sample from Dr. Birkin before he could sell it to the US military.
All this, of course, was just pretense to blow through an urban compound killing security personnel ("They can't be trusted"). This let us see the game's cover system in action. Instead of holding down a button to stick to cover, your character in Operation Raccoon City will automatically lock into place simply by walking up to the desired cover. From there he can pop up and fire normally--making sure to fire in short bursts to maintain accuracy--or blind-fire wildly.
When it was time to get our hands on the game, we selected Christine "Four Eyes" Yamata, a field scientist who filled the support role in the group. All characters can equip one skill (either active or passive), one primary weapon, and one secondary weapon. Program Infected, an active skill, lets Four Eyes control an enemy and select whom it attacks. Biometric Vision, a passive skill, lets her clearly see infected enemies and their weak points. We chose Attraction Pheromone, an active skill that made nearby infected enemies swarm and attack a single target.
From a selection of shotguns, submachine guns, and rifles, we chose the automatic shotgun as our primary weapon. The secondary weapons were all different pistol flavors, so we picked the one with the most range. All weapons have their own statistics, such as range and damage, and while you don't upgrade these weapons, there are numerous versions in each category. We also got to choose our three teammates from the five remaining candidates. Bertha (the medic), Beltway (the heavily armored brute), and Vector (the guy who can turn invisible) made the cut.
Our mission took place right after the prologue seen earlier. Hunk was missing, Dr. Birkin had pulled Mr. Hyde on us, and the T-Virus outbreak was in full swing. It fell on us to clean up this biological mess and ensure that Umbrella's involvement remained hidden. Right away we noticed this didn't handle like any Resident Evil game we had played before. If you lamented Resident Evil 5's arguably laborious controls, you may find Operation Raccoon City's quick pace a step in the right direction. We could fire while moving, as well as quickly swap between our two weapons. Additional weapons, ammo, and healing items were also in abundance to keep us moving through the demo.
And unlike in Resident Evil 5, hand-to-hand combat in Operation Raccoon City wasn't just a forerunner to getting hit. By combining the melee button and direction stick, we could strike in front, behind, or to the sides of our character and fend off zombies from multiple directions. After hitting a target a few times, we could finish it off with a stylish execution kill or use it as cover. Against highly mobile targets, Operation Raccoon City's auto-aiming feature automatically snapped our character's laser sight to the nearest target with the press of a button. However, this technique worked only with pistols (which we automatically switched to), and our character moved at a walking pace.
At the end of our mission we were awarded experience points based on our performance and were given an overall score. We could also earn extra experience by completing side missions, such as destroying computer servers with incriminating evidence; collecting evidence items and uploading them at laptops; or locating the stuffed Raccoon City raccoon hidden in each mission. Experience points are account-wide and can be spent on any character whose skills you want to increase, or they can be used to purchase new weapons for your entire team.
You can tap into your dark side when Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City is released on March 20, 2012, on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. A PC version will follow later in the year.